"If I knew then what I know now..." -Your Elders
This phrase — almost always followed by a silent pause, knowing nod or random segue into completely unrelated conversation — has got to be one of my biggest pet peeves in life. I always want to scream, "Finish your sentence!" Tell us, let us know and teach the children what you would do differently at the end of that ellipses. Wisdom is an invaluable commodity, and no matter what stage of life you're in, someone else's then is your now. Although no two experiences are exactly the same, if there is knowledge to be gained and pitfalls avoided through the sharing of experiences, by all means, elders — please share!
This is the primary reason I began this column. As an older millennial, my decade-and-a-half of adulting has yielded its share of major life keys, and if there's any nugget of value to be gained from that experience, I'm happy to share it. However, I recognize that I still have so much to learn. We all do. The amazing thing is that nothing we're facing is new. It's just new to us. From personal to societal, every issue that we're grappling with today has likely already been faced by the generations that preceded us. Think of how much ground could be gained from taking the time to learn from the triumphs and failures of our elders. Mentorship is important, and as we grow in experience it's equally vital that we assume those mentoring roles for others.
Here are 13 tips to get the most out of your dual-generation mentorship:
1. Be open
Your mentor grew up at a different time, guided by a different set of social norms. Perspectives and terminology might differ, but as long as the dialogue is constructive and honest, you're on the right track.
2. Don't judge
If there is a communication gap between the young and the old, it's not without reason. Too often the wisdom that comes with age is accompanied by critical, judgmental undertones that ultimately surrender effectiveness in condescending delivery. Conversely, the arrogance of youth can sometimes be a barrier to receiving valuable insight. We can do better.
3. Keep it one-hunned
The most impactful conversations are the open and honest ones. In mentorship, it's not about rattling off a list of dos and don'ts, it's about sharing the process of how you arrived at those conclusions. That's how lessons are internalized. Authenticity always resonates.
4. Be vulnerable
Effective mentorship demands a certain level of vulnerability and setting aside of ego. If you're not willing to be transparent, the value of the relationship will be limited.
5. Share stories not sermons
Save the self-righteous indignation and philosophical sermons. We need to hear about the crazy, careless decisions that earned you that wisdom. Don't tell us what to do, we are capable of thinking for ourselves. Tell us what you did or didn't do and the results of those decisions. That's where the real value is.
6. It's so not about you
Few things are more fulfilling than serving and helping others. If you're a mentor, it's important to take periodic inventory of why you're in this mentorship relationship. Are you here to feel good about yourself or are you genuinely invested in the growth and development of your mentee? If you're a mentee, understand that this is a give and take relationship. You contribute to this relationship too.
7. Take genuine interest
You can give and receive surface-level advise without really knowing a person, but in order to be an effective mentor or mentee, you really need to get to know your mentee or mentor on a personal level. What motivates them? What challenges are they facing?
8. Share successes
If the advice of your mentor leads you to a win, let them know. Take them to lunch, tell them "thank you." Don't take what you need and then disappear. A little appreciation goes a long way.
Advice isn't always necessary. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just listen. This should be a safe place for mentor and mentee to vent and air their frustrations.
10. Admit what you don't know
As a mentor, it might be tempting to assume the 'know-it-all' role, but you don't know it all. If your mentee has a need that you aren't equipped to meet, tell them or refer them to someone else. As a mentee, there's no need to try to impress. Mentorships are most effective when both parties bring their real selves to the table.
11. Set boundaries
Is this a formal or casual mentorship? How often will you talk? What kind of information and how much are you willing to share? Set clear expectations to hash out boundaries.
12. Set expectations
To maximize these relationships, it's important to be clear about what you want to get out of it. What exactly do you want to learn from this person? My mentors include a super upbeat and hilarious peer, a retired grandmother, a powerhouse entrepreneur and an award-winning writer. They all serve different purposes in mentorship and they all know it.
13. Get tactical
Now that you've mastered the basics, it's time to get tactical and work together to put a practical plan of action in place.
With practice and a little patience, dual-generation mentorships can be valuable and fulfilling for all parties involved. Stick with it!
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The transition into adulthood isn’t an easy one. Navigating relationships, managing workplace politics, hitting those milestones on schedule— don’t be fooled, no one knows what they’re doing. There will be all kinds of fumbles, blunders and awkward missteps along the way. If you’re constantly wondering to yourself, “Am I doing this right?” Welcome. This is just the place for...
I care what people think of me. There, I said it. I care far less than I once did, but like most people, I'm fairly mindful of how I'm being perceived. As a mere mortal in this regard, I'm in constant awe of those fearless superheroes who seem totally unconcerned with the opinions of others.
I'm not talking about the "let me repeatedly subtweet about how much I don't care what people think of me" crowd, I'm referring to that rare breed of personality that genuinely gives no care about the judgment of others. You know, the Rihannas, Frank Oceans, and Cardi Bs of the world who seem all-together unbothered. Granted, they operate in an industry that celebrates their individuality, but even within that field, they seem to have escaped the super-sanitized PR scrub-down that so often accompanies superstardom, and we love them for it.
In the meantime, those of us out here on this regular-degular are less able to truly embrace that zero chucks life. Seriously, in the real world our lives and livelihoods depend heavily on the good opinion of our employers, our communities and in some cases, our social circles. Depending on culture and geographical location, social codes of conduct can range from ultra conservative to super liberal, but no matter where you are, a certain level of compromise is necessary in order to function in the world. So, how do we balance being true to ourselves with managing social protocol? How much should we really care what anyone thinks of us?
For me, it's a delicate balance. Needing everyone's validation and approval is a sure recipe for disaster, but I do believe that there needs to be a happy medium between caring too much and not caring at all. For those who struggle with knowing exactly where to draw that line, here are five golden rules that might prove helpful when it comes to weighing the opinions of others:
1. Filter out the hate
Some people just hate out of habit. Straight up...Like, wake up, wash face, brush teeth, HATE! Let them have it. Who are you to stand in the way of someone's favorite pastime? I'd say the overwhelming majority of judgements and opinions don't warrant any energy.
2. Consider the source
The opinions of some people just carry more weight than others. The judgement of strangers, social media trolls and that random disrespectful dude on the subway don't matter at all. The opinions of acquaintances and co-workers should perhaps carry some weight, but it's the feedback from your trusted circle of friends, family and loved ones that, in my opinion, warrant the most consideration. I'm willing to make considerable compromise for the people I love.
3. Is this a pattern?
If you're constantly receiving the same criticism, even if it's from individuals outside your inner circle, maybe it's worth looking at. It's important to stay open to self-examination. We all have our blind spots.
4. Elders be knowing
Don't sleep on the advice of seniors. Seriously, if an elder is willing to sit down, be transparent and kick knowledge, I'm always willing to listen. There's something to be gained from people who have lived and seen some things.
5. Is it worth it?
Some choices are inherently controversial. If doing what you feel is right earns a certain amount of social stigma, you have to be prepared for that. Unless you are willing to compromise your purpose for the approval of others, you're going to need a thick skin to walk out this journey on your own terms.
At the end of the day, it's your life to live. There might be times when it's necessary to consider what other people think of you, but as long as you know who you are and what you stand for, nobody's opinion should carry more weight than your own.
The transition into adulthood isn’t an easy one. Navigating relationships, managing workplace politics, hitting those milestones on schedule— don’t be fooled, no one knows what they’re doing. There will be all kinds of fumbles, blunders and awkward missteps along the way. If you’re constantly wondering to yourself, “Am I doing this right?” Welcome. This is just the place for you.
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Going off to college can be intimidating for anyone, but when you're the first person in your family to do so, that pressure is often multiplied. My mom, who worked two jobs to provide for my sister and I, did everything she could to prepare me for the big leap. She bought every item on my dorm furnishings list, moved me into my room and told me to do well. What wasn't included in my send off was a talk on what to expect, how to be successful or where to go if I needed help. As a first-generation college student, there were some lessons I would have to learn on my own.
For all my fellow higher education pioneers out here gearing up for the big send off in the next week or so, feel free to benefit from my experience. As a parting gift, I offer you this list of 17 practical pieces of advice for first generation college students to ensure success:
1. It's a different world
You've been in school your entire life. You're probably familiar with the whole, study + exam = good grades formula. What you need to be prepared for is all the noise that gets in the way of that equation. College is about so much more than academics. You're entering a new world with its own set of unspoken institutional rules and cultural norms.
2. The race begins now!
No matter where you come from, everyone enters their first class of freshman year with a 4.0 GPA. Your primary job is to do your best to maintain it.
3. They're just words
I remember once I got into my major classes, I was initially overwhelmed by all the extra words people used. I came to college with a decent vocabulary, but the academic jargon and acronyms were new to me. Once I began noting and understanding each new term I encountered, I realized that career academics speak differently, but what they're saying really isn't that complicated.
4. Choose a major you love
As a first-generation college student, your number one priority might be choosing a major that yields the quickest return on your post-grad buck. Doing what you love can seem like a luxury reserved for the privileged, but nothing is further from the truth. If you're passionate about something, you're going to bring to it an energy and drive that will make you stand out from the pack and catapult you in your career. Pursuing a field of study that you're not so enthusiastic about runs a high risk of career mediocrity.
5. Embrace the broke
If your parents can't afford to break you off a little extra change every month, so be it. Live within your meager financial means. Seriously, it's totally acceptable to be cash poor in college. It might be tempting to take on extra hours at your job or apply for a credit card in order to stunt with the rest of them, but credit balances have to be paid back (with interest), and you have the rest of your life to work those long hours. I assure you, when you look back, you won't even remember the outfit you worked overtime to flex. It will be those carefree moments clowning around in the student union that you'll cherish the most.
6. Hard work > everything
You're going to be sitting side-by-side with students who have been preparing their entire lives for college. There will be some with connections and resources you can't even imagine, but hard work trumps everything. Your discipline and work ethic will more than fill in the gap.
7. You belong here
Whether it's the academic advisor who mildly insults you at every interaction or the bougie girl in your hall who never misses a condescending sneak diss, from time to time you'll encounter characters who will make it their business to belittle you. Their goal is to get in your head and convince you that you don't belong in their space. Don't take the bait! Those who derive their esteem from their perceived status go to exhausting lengths to maintain their false air of superiority. This is their problem, not yours.
8. Ask questions
This is no time to fake it 'til you make it. In fact, this is one of the few times in your life when it's perfectly acceptable to be clueless. If you don't know, ASK!
9. Know your boundaries
My college bestie had the admirable ability to pick up things the first time she heard them. She could sit through a lecture and absorb every concept. With her memory, she could afford not to study. She could go out every night and still ace the exam. I, on the other hand, needed to review notes, read chapters and make note cards in order to reinforce what I had learned. I discovered the hard way that I couldn't do what she did. At the end of the day, we both graduated with the same degree from the same university. It didn't matter how we got there, just that we got there.
10. Choose your friends wisely
At this point in your life, your friends will have more influence on you than your professors, mentors and family combined. Choose your squad wisely. Live life, have fun, wild out (a little), but be mindful to surround yourself with positive, goal-oriented people who encourage and motivate you.
11. Get involved
Do as much as you can handle. Join clubs, run for office, pledge if you want. This will arguably be the best time of your entire social life. The networks and friendships you build now will last a lifetime and the leadership experience looks great on your resumé.
12. Expand your horizons
Take every opportunity to expand your consciousness. Make friends with people from totally different backgrounds, attend seminars that feature speakers with opposing views from you, apply for free opportunities to study abroad. Make it a personal goal to leave college a more well-rounded individual than when you started.
13. Tap your resources
Go to the career center to get resumé advice, sign up for free tutoring if you need a little extra help. Take full advantage of every resource at your disposal. Why not? Your tuition is paying for it.
14. Talk to your professors
Make sure your professors know who you are. Take advantage of their office hours. Your visibility could make the difference in that half point you need to pass the class. Be genuine, though...they've seen it all and can detect game from a mile away.
15. Find a mentor
Major key alert! Finding a mentor is probably the most important thing you can do. In my opinion, these relationships should grow organically. My mentor was a grad student with a similar background as me. Not only did he provide practical coaching and advice, but he was a walking example that I, too, could succeed.
16. Bring your whole self
Your background will make you sensitive to things that other people miss. Speak up, share your perspectives, bring your whole self to the table. Your perspective is valuable.
17. Keep your eyes on the target
You're about to enter a period of amazing experiences, accelerated self-discovery and even some moments of agonizing pain. All of it is important, but the key to success is maintaining a balance that works for you. Take it all in, but keep in mind that your ultimate goal is to graduate.
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Whether you're happy about it or dreading the day, school is about to be in session for many of us. And if you're gearing up for your first year, take some advice I wish someone would have told me:
No one is staring at you.
When you're walking through the cafeteria or on the main lawn, you might feel self-conscious that everyone is staring at you. I promise, no one is staring at you.
You probably won't find a solid group of friends until your sophomore year.
Finding a group of people you mesh well with is no easy feat. Some people might seem like they have a strong group of friends on their second day. They probably won't talk to each other after the third week.
You don't have to go to that party. It's okay to stay home and watch Netflix.
If you hate being in a tight space with hundreds of smelly strangers, it's okay to go back to you dorm room and watch Netflix. Sometimes drinking tea and watching Game of Thrones is a much needed form of therapy after a long week of classes.
Be careful who you give your heart to.
Be selective with the people you let into your inner circle. There are a lot of con-artists in college who will present themselves as lovers.
You do not have to be pre-med.
We can't all be doctors. Take an art or history class. Don't tank your GPA because of a major you think you should live up to but don't care about.
The library is overrated.
Coffee shops and dorm rooms can be some of the most productive places to work. It's important to try different places out to find your niche.
Maintain a good relationship with your parents.
You aren't as grown as you think you are. If you're lucky enough to have sensible guidance, don't be afraid to lean on them for support.
Try things you always wanted to try but never had the chance.
College offers so many opportunities to undergraduate students. If you end up hating something you try, don't do it anymore. But don't miss out on the chance to tackle things you've always wanted to.
You don't have to have a plan.
Your plan is probably going to change anyway. College is a place to experience different subjects, personalities and events. You might fall in love with something (or someone) while you're there and it can alter everything. Be open to change.
If a professor says something racist, it's okay to respond.
If you're sitting in class and your professor says something insulting to your identity, it's okay to respond. If you don't want to respond in that moment, send them an email. They need to respeck your identity.
Your grades are not the only thing that matters.
Grades are important. But so is campus involvement. College is not just about learning in the classroom. Life lessons can occur in the cafeteria, parties and dorm rooms. Don't chain yourself to your desk. Get out and have some fun.
Don't let upperclassmen take advantage of you.
If a senior cuts you in line at the bookstore, tell 'em, "Boy, bye." It's okay to clap back at people who think they can treat you like trash.
There is so much more to college than drinking and partying.
Media portrayals of college are so wrong. College is not just about hooking up. You have access to extreme discounts, take advantage of them! Go to campus lectures, city art museums and new restaurants. Don't feel pressured to chug a beer at 3:00 p.m. on a Thursday.
Don't forget who you are.
Be proud of who you are and where you come from. People will try to make you feel smaller than you really are. If you find yourself feeling this, it's time to change friends.
It's very normal to have a few falling outs with your friends.
Some relationships just don't work out. It's not necessarily your fault. Making and breaking friendships is a part of life.
Find black organizations
There might come a time when a fellow first-year will hits you with a bad joke involving a played out stereotype. That's when you leave and go to a collective of woke black people so you can go off.
College will be a one-of-a-kind experience. Keep these tips in mind and make the most of it!
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Raise your hand if you've ever wanted to be an entertainer at some point in your life! Whether you dreamed of acting in a scene in a movie, dancing in a play or singing melodic lyrics that soothe your soul, something or someone made you feel that you wanted to entertain. Many of us want the lifestyle of an entertainer, but do we really have the heart to endure what it takes to be a superstar?
Although the big city and bright lights look glamorous, the entertainers we all know and love had their share of rejection, hard times and sacrifices in order to live out their dreams. The path to becoming an entertainer is a road less traveled and filled with adversity that would make the average person rethink the career path.
These three budding entertainers from Chicago, New York and Los Angeles share their story of what it takes to make it in the entertainment industry and what lessons they’ve learned to keep pursuing their dreams:
It takes passion
Tiffany Johnson is an actress based out of Chicago and has performed in musical theater productions around the Windy City. She recently scored a national Sears commercial and she gained a supporting role on NBC’s Chicago P.D.
Sometimes home can be the key to opportunities.
Ever since she was young, Johnson knew she wanted to be a performer. After college, she made the decision to return to her hometown of Chicago to pursue her professional acting career. “Chicago is a great place to be an actor. It’s a big theater city, and I came back at the time where TV started to really pick up. There has always been a lot of commercials filmed here, too. I knew it was possible that I could move to a different market, but I wanted to start my professional career here and just kind of see where it would go,” Tiffany shares.
Stay open and ready!
In order to pursue her career in acting, Tiffany decided to leave her schedule open by not committing to a full-time job. “For me the sacrifices include working a 9-to-5, which is a lot more stable, to pursue acting. I was determined to find a way to make it work, because I wanted to leave the time open to pursue a career in acting. It comes with difficult times, but that’s the sacrifice I made. I can honestly say I think it was worth it, ” Tiffany says.
You won’t always know from where your next check will come.
Not having that financially stability and job security really impacted Tiffany’s lifestyle, but things started to turn around in 2015. “The day I shot my first national commercial with Sears, my lights were turned off. I hit a very rough spot financially. I got behind a bit, but I have a very strong spirituality, and I feel like God is always on time. It’s not easy breezy, but it’s a lot more stable now,” Tiffany says.
You have to give it your all.
“If you don’t have passion, then I don’t think there’s a point,” she says. “You have to love it. You give a lot of yourself. It takes a lot out of you to breathe life into characters. You have to have tough skin, and you will hear no. You’ll hear it time and time again and you have to let disappointment pass. It’s okay to feel it, but you need to know how to release it. You have to be a fighter and persevere. You have to have these qualities. I don’t think acting is any harder than any other career. It’s beautiful, it’s challenging, it’s lovely and it’s hard, but you have to be passionate. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love it. There’s nothing in this world like being a storyteller.”
You have to pay your dues
Dawn Evans is an actress based out of Los Angeles. The former WNBA hopeful took a career setback due to a rare kidney disease. Her life post kidney transplant led her to Hollywood to pursue her dreams of being an entertainer.
Grind till you own it!
Dawn Evans got her start in the business by auditioning for commercials and modeling in the Greater Nashville area. When she was 12, she and her dad moved to Los Angeles to see what Hollywood had to offer. She eventually returned to Tennessee to finish her education, but the thought of returning to California to finish what she started was always in the back of her mind. “In this industry you’ll find that it’s always a grind, because there are so many people fighting for it. So for me the commitment came when I packed up and moved to L.A. for good instead of the back and forth, or just coming here to L.A. during pilot seasons. It’s a year round commitment you have to make, because you never know when your opportunity will come knocking,” Dawn shares.
There’s never a right time, there’s only right now.
She made her full-time commitment to pursue her acting dreams and returned to Los Angeles after under-going a kidney transplant in 2014. “Don’t wait around on the right opportunity, because no time is better than now. The sooner you start your journey, the sooner you get to your result,” Dawn explains.
Timing is everything.
The former college basketball star is grinding toward her big break, but it comes with a cost. “You have to pay your dues. People expect to move to LA and hit big soon after they arrive, but you have to build yourself and your reputation in this big city and show people that you are a force. Making people believers takes time. Sometimes more than you ever even realize,” Dawn says.
Always hone in on your craft.
Although she has picked up some roles on web series such as Lipstick the Series and In The Moment, opportunities are not as consistent. “The inconsistency of booking gigs is hard on you, especially in L.A., until you truly break into the business. You are constantly on the move trying to make the money necessary to hone your craft, because classes, workshops, driving to auditions and headshots all can become costly. Sometimes you don’t book the jobs to pay off those expenses, so it’s all about finding balance in this city and making it work.”
You have to be fearless
Aminah Imani is a comedian based out of New York City. She’s rocked the stages of some of the Big Apple’s most popular venues, including Caroline's and Gotham Comedy Club.
Learn to be brave.
In 2009, Aminah Imani faced her fears and auditioned for the comedy show at Howard University’s homecoming. She went from only performing for her small group of friends in her apartment to opening up for Cocoa Brown, Gary Owen and Lil' Duval in front of a crowd of around 1,500 people. “It was extremely scary, because Howard is notoriously a hard crowd to please. You really have to be brave. I knew from that moment on that this was something that I wanted to do forever,” Aminah says.
Being brave is the very thing that Aminah thinks aspiring entertainers need to be successful. “You need tough skin, you really have to be brave. It was required of me to be a strong black woman, but it takes vulnerability to be strong. It’s takes that fear – even though that’s a sign of weakness – but as an artist that’s a part of being brave, it’s a part of being courageous, it’s a part of opening yourself up, and letting people experience the real you and not what people expect you to be,” Aminah says.
There’s no such thing as instant fame.
When she moved to New York City to pursue comedy full-time, she had a misconception of what it would take to really break into the business. Aminah learned quickly that the road would not be easy. “First starting out I didn’t think I would get immediate gratification, but I didn’t think it would be such a process to grow into who you are as a performer. For me, I always saw comedy as you write jokes, you get on stage and you make people laugh and you get opportunities. Living in NYC, there are a lot of comedians, so opportunities can be far and few. It’s an ongoing process, some people blow up after their first year of doing comedy and some don’t see growth until their third or fourth year. It’s a job that’s unpredictable. One night you’ll have a show and nobody laughs. Another night you’ll get paid $200 and the next night you’re only compensated with a drink at the bar. That’s something that I definitely didn’t know when I started. Even the people you see on TV; they may be cut one check, but they are always looking for the next opportunity to sustain. People might not know how unpredictable it is. Every night is it’s own night,” Aminah explains.
Be strategic in how you approach your dream.
Aminah has to approach her dream a little differently now that she is a mother. “When I first moved up here in 2010, I had a good momentum, things were picking up, and I was running a successful show. Then I got pregnant and I took time off. I have a child so I can’t hop on to every opportunity that comes my way like I did before. I have to be a bit more strategic and plan everything out. I do have a full-time job because I’m a full-time mother with full-time responsibilities. For me, comedy has always been my passion, but because of its inconsistencies with pay, it’s something that I can’t fully commit to. It’s kind of like being an actor, where you want that steady income from a television show, but some people work for the gigs. So I’m still paying my dues. I’m still working on getting more credits and opportunities, so that I don’t have to work a full-time job,” Aminah shares.
Trust your process.
Aminah has booked gigs at some of New York’s biggest comedy clubs like Gotham and Caroline’s; she even had a set at the inaugural 202 Comedy Festival in Washington, D.C. “Things are really picking up and I’ve even done a lot of work with BRIC TV, which is Brooklyn’s local station. These are all moments that are saying to me to keep going and to keep doing my thing. When I’m out people are starting to recognize me. I have my own podcast, Wine Before Nine, and it’s building. One thing I’ve learned over time is to trust your process, appreciate it and don’t rush anything,” Aminah adds.
Although they each faced their own battles of adversity, each of these ladies is more determined than ever to breakthrough in the entertainment industry.
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Money, education, relationship status...there is no end to the metrics we use to compare ourselves to one another. And who can blame us? Through reward, punishment and consistent repetition, we are taught how to be, what to think, what to do and when to do it. We quickly learn what is valued, what wins praise and what draws ridicule. We then use this social contract to go about the business of conforming and checking boxes.
Although there is a place for structure and order, things get hazy when the desire to measure up becomes an end unto itself and our lives become so driven by the need for approval that we forget who we are. I've seen people rush down the aisle, choose ill-fitting careers and live an entire lie in an effort to fit in. The pressure and effort and energy required to keep up is exhausting. I'm not innocent in this regard, so I speak from experience when I say that this kind of duplicity is simply not sustainable.
The truth is, comparison is futile.
No one on the face of the earth has your mix of DNA. Your talents, fingerprints, your quirky idiosyncrasies —none of it is coincidental. Your experience is wholly, entirely and uniquely yours. From this perspective, the expectation that everyone should operate within the same cookie cutter template is completely illogical. We cheat ourselves when we don't allow ourselves to be ourselves.
Authenticity is a courageous act, but when you think about it, what choice do you have?
This is the fourth installment of ‘Am I doing this right?’
The transition into adulthood isn’t an easy one. Navigating relationships, managing workplace politics, hitting those milestones on schedule— don’t be fooled, no one knows what they’re doing. There will be all kinds of fumbles, blunders and awkward missteps along the way. If you’re constantly wondering to yourself, “Am I doing this right?” This is just the place for you.
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"If I knew then what I know now..." is an old adage many of us are all too familiar with. If only that time machine we've been constructing in our imagination would finally appear before us, we could take all this wisdom back to our younger selves, delivering the cheat codes to life. Alas, you live and you learn, but if I could go back and tell my younger self some things, here's the advice I'd give:
Stop dropping out of college
They say college is where you find yourself. I just wasn't trying to find myself for $300 a unit, you know? The general education classes were boring to me, and the teachers seemed like they wanted to be there less than I did. Still, a lot of college is about sticking it out until you get to the good stuff. If my attitude had matched my aptitude, I could be finished with my master's degree by now. Not to mention, the older you get, the more difficult it is to obtain financial aid, grants and scholarships. We live in a system that assumes you'll be done with college by a certain age, which obviously isn't true, but definitely affects opportunities for monetary assistance.
These boys ain't loyal
I'd tell myself to focus on my own gifts, and building my relationship with myself. Guys can be a distraction at a crucial point in life, especially if you're not clear on what you want for yourself. I'd assure the younger me that I'm a great date, tell her that I always bring myself flowers and candy, I never cancel on me, and I always text back. If you happen to find that one, cool. If not, cool.
Family is more important than you think
It was definitely all about my friends five years ago. My mantra was, "Relatives are given, Family is built," which I still believe. Those people sharing your DNA, though, understand you and will often go out of their way to support you in ways that your friends simply won't. I've continued to build that family that I want, blood and non-blood relatives included, but I've also come to appreciate my mama and older sisters more. They've been doing this life thing longer than me. You don't have to always take their advice, but at least consider that they have some wisdom to offer.
You have outer flaws and you're still cute
No horizontal stripes or loud prints. No skinny jeans. Try to avoid tank tops. No polka dots. As a plus size woman, these are things I'd heard and adhered to for many years of my life. Because I didn't think I was cute, I didn't even try to be. Every single person in this world has some physical flaw that they're trying to hide, but that doesn't diminish their beauty. I'd tell myself to rock that hot pink and neon green in the summer with confidence.
You have inner flaws and you can change
Phrases such as, "This is just the way I am" or "Maybe I'm just to real for some people" flowed out of my mouth constantly. The truth is that behavior is taught in both directions. If one can be taught rudeness, one can also be taught kindness. If one can be taught selfishness, one can also be taught selflessness. That whole story about your battling inner wolves (one being the good wolf and one being the bad wolf) ends by saying that the wolf that wins is the one you feed. Being flawed isn't a crime, but actively choosing not to acknowledge, accept, and change poor behaviors is a shame.
Save your money. Seriously, do it.
When I got my first corporate job, I was making more money in one week than I'd made in entire summers before that. I started buying a pair of sneakers every week, clothes, accessories, I bought a car and took random road trips for no reason. What I didn't do was save. Nobody told me what a 401k was, and I didn't do my research myself (until much later). I wasn't taught about investing. Finances were the thing that plagued my parents, so I kind of avoided talking about it (to myself or others). The thing is, money can be flowing one day and stop dead cold the next. Savings cushion the blow during hard times and discipline us for the larger purchases we'll inevitably want to make later in life.
Cultivate friendships with women
I was (and still am) a guy's gal. Most of my friends were guys because I'd rather play dominoes than play in makeup (I don't wear makeup). I was also turned off by a lot of women who seemed to want to compete with each other than have actual friendships. Who looks cuter, who has the better man, who can get the other one's man to look at me instead? These were situations that I wanted no part of. The thing is... I just hadn't found my tribe yet. There were women out there who were like me, but it took me longer to find them because there was also a nagging desire to be "cool." I'd tell my younger self that among your tribe, you're always cool.
Real support is reciprocal and so is love
I spent a TON of time supporting people and assuming that when the time came for those people to support me, it would happen. I remember digging through my couch for change so I could pay the toll to go to my friend's performances. I remember driving miles and miles in the opposite direction of where I lived to take the homies home from outings or appointments because I was the only one with a car at the time. I remember paying for countless meals for broke friends. None of this was done with the expectation of getting something out of it, but I also remember my car breaking down and losing my job. I remember how little my phone rang then. It's important to separate the users from the homies as early as possible. That level of discernment is vital. This applies to romantic relationships as well. It's cool to say 'no' to them, knowing they aren't really rocking with you like that, anyway.
Build discipline in tandem with inspiration
Whether it was learning that new instrument or writing that book, I only did it when I was "inspired." We all know that inspiration doesn't hit every single day, but doing anything well is as much about consistency as it is about talent. I might not have loved the page I wrote every single day, but that's okay, I wrote a page. And when the inspiration did hit, I'd be able to knock out 20 pages instead of just the one because that writing muscle never stopped flexing.
Know your professional worth
This is an important one. In the professional world, youth is something that is often taken advantage of because it's looked at as an innate lack of knowledge. You know more than you think you know and you have experience that you're ignoring. Write down everything you've done, read over it, and relate it to what you're currently doing. Don't let someone else diminish your contributions because you're the youngest person in the room. You're in the room, so you must have something they want.
Remember that humility and confidence are not at odds
You can say that you're dope with all humility and grace. Humility doesn't mean hiding your gifts of dimming your light. Humility is simply acknowledging that there's always someone better out there, that everyone has room for improvement (including you), and keeping a level head about where you are in your journey. But as Buddy Love once told Professor Klump, "No matter what, you've GOT to strut!"
What would you tell your former self? Let us know in the comments below!
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Regardless of if you're looking for a new job, networking with your peers or just trying to make some new friends, first impressions are the key to the future of your relationships.
And when it comes to your career, it doesn't always matter how much skill you have if you don't have the social skills to make an impression on others. If you can talk to anyone and make them feel comfortable, you can showcase your many valuable talents to them with ease.
So follow these 13 tips for a fool-proof guide to winning over anyone in no time.
1. Set a mental intention
Think about what kind of impression you're hoping to make before you get to your event. What do you want to learn about, who do you want to connect with and what value do you think you can add to the lives of those involved? Now get out there and do it!
2. Dress the part
Scope out the dress code, but wear something you're comfortable in. If you have an outfit that's appropriate but you'll be miserable wearing it all day or night, don't torture yourself.
3. Show that you're interested
Eye contact, follow-up questions and a listening ear are the main tools you'll need to convince your acquaintance that you're highly invested in what they have to say.
4. Have a 10-second-or-less intro prepared
This should be more succinct and personal than your typical elevator speech. If you can sell yourself, everything else will be a breeze.
5. Be consistent
If you're saying how excited you are to share your idea for a new proposal, be sure you're not slumped over or yawning every 20 seconds. Be consistent with how you act and what you say so that your most authentic self shines through
6. Play it cool
If you're nervous, most other people probably are too. Push through that jittery feeling and instead let it fuel you to put yourself out there and lead the conversation.
7. Let your body language set the tone
Even if you stumble over a few words, if you're positioning yourself with good body language, chances are you'll still make an amazing impression.
8. Respect the bubble
No matter how loud or busy things are around you, be sure to leave space for others to enjoy their personal bubble without invasion.
9. Don't come on TOO strong or scare anyone away
You shouldn't overpower anyone, especially when you're making a first impression. Of course be a leader, but also leave room for others to talk and for normal breaks in conversation.
10. Focus on others
Even if you're trying to sell yourself, it's not about you right now. Spend your time learning about others and seeing what ways you can collaborate and have mutual benefits
11. Find someone standing alone or a group of 3-4+ people
If you're having a rough time stepping into conversations, go for one of two extremes. Join the other person standing on the wall, not socializing yet. They could be waiting for your helping hand. On the other side of the coin, join the group of three or more people and hop right in. Those group conversations are usually much less intimate and provide opportunities to hop right in when compared to trying to penetrate a one-on-one conversation.
12. Be aware of someone trying to join your conversation or talk to you
Return the favor that others gave you by keeping an eye on those around you. If you see someone who's wanting to hop in, reach out and invite them into the conversation. You never know who they might be and what they might do.
13. Master your exit like you did your entrance
Figure out a way to smoothly exit the conversation and move on to the next one. Even if your entire conversation was great, a bad exit can leave a sour taste in someone's mouth.
So what do you do to win over people you just met? Let us know in the comments below!
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Rising YouTube sensation Derrick Jaxn gives me so much life with his insight on women and dating. He is the breath of fresh air that melanated women deserve. I appreciate his commitment to loving, supporting and protecting us. Check him out!
On Saturday, May 21st, we’re hosting our inaugural conference about how creativity and technology are changing our daily lives, from our hobbies to our work. Will you be joining us? Tickets here. Use code blavityfam.
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As graduation approaches, I can't help but wonder what I'll do after college. With family and friends constantly asking what I plan to do afterward, I can sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed and uncertain about it all. But when this happens, I take a step back and begin to look at this situation from a different perspective.
Though it would be great to know exactly what I'm doing after school, I realize that at no other point in my life have I had everything figured out. So why would now be any different? If life is about trial and error, going with the flow, and learning from your experiences, there's no way I could have my whole life after undergrad drawn out. And honestly, I don't want to.
Unlike some people, I'm looking forward to this time out of school. For the first time in a long time, I'll be able to try new things and figure out what I love to do. I can let my experiences guide the way to my future. I don't have to succumb to any pressures placed upon me.
I'm also looking forward to just going with the flow. I'm more than ready to let my dreams manifest and guide me to where I should be. I feel no guilt about not interfering with what this world has for me.
If you're on your way to graduation and are being bombarded with the same questions, remain calm. College is just a phase of your life. There was life before it and there will be life after it. Don't feel pressured to begin organizing your life down to every little detail. Instead, prepare yourself for new adventures and experiences. Prepare for your downfalls (because they will happen) and know that you must learn from them. Make your time out of school as stress-free as possible, and, most importantly, enjoy every minute of it.
On Saturday, May 21st, we’re hosting our inaugural conference about how creativity and technology are changing our daily lives, from our hobbies to our work. Will you be joining us? Tickets here.
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Who needs an MBA from B-School when you can get an education from "Bey-School" instead?
In case you haven't fully grasped the concept quite yet, Queen Bey slays when it comes to business. Just two short months after dominating the media with a surprise video release, Superbowl performance and record-breaking concert tour announcement, Beyoncé has proven that she is a force to be reckoned with the release of yet another project, the athleisure clothing line, Ivy Park.
Whether or not you like Beyoncé's music, videos, politics, clothing, hairstyle, toe nail polish color, breakfast choices, whatever, one thing is undeniable: Her entrepreneurial acumen is consistently on point and is often so far ahead of the curve that it creates the curve.
A year-and-a-half ago, Mrs. Carter entered into a strategic 50/50 partnership with Topshop to produce a line of athletic wear to include "clothing, footwear and accessories for fitness, sport and dance." She recently debuted the promotional video for the activewear, and the promo is absolutely brilliant from a business perspective. Take a look and see for yourself:
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter is my personal go-to mogul mentor when it comes to laying the foundation for, creating and building a successful business and implementing inventive business strategies. Well... she's my personal mogul mentor in my head anyway — at least until she invites me over to sip champagne and discuss our entrepreneurial endeavors in person like business besties are prone to do. Until then, however, I'll just continue to happily glean tidbits of excellent entrepreneurial advice from her smart business moves.
Listen, if all you see when you look at Beyoncé is hot music, haute clothes and a superstar entertainer, then you are completely missing the point. One of the things that thrills me to no end is to see someone — especially a woman —who takes command when it comes to their business and is strategic, inventive and a calculated risk-taker when it comes to building it. If at this point you're still asking "Of all the successful women entrepreneurs out there why should Beyoncé be my mentor when it comes to business?" then allow me to give you four brilliant reasons. Let's explore, shall we?
4 BRILLIANT "BEY-SCHOOL" BUSINESS LESSONS FROM THE IVY PARK LAUNCH
Understand branding and the importance of storytelling
A clear indication that Beyoncé understands branding is that she constantly and consistently weaves branding throughout her projects and hits you with it at every possible angle. For starter's, check out that stylized 'B' logo in the bottom right hand corner of the video. It's not intrusive — it's subliminal, but it's there doing its job in letting you know that this is a Beyoncé project through and through.
The strategy of weaving branding throughout her projects is something she does constantly and consistently.
As for the storytelling aspect, the ad does a spectacular job of drawing you in: It's very personal in nature with actual footage of Bey's former home and of her as a child. It makes the view feel connected to the product because Beyoncé herself narrates her personal story that has a message the viewer can connect to, and it inspires the viewer to take action by finding their own "park" that will motivate and help them in pursuing their dreams.
By the way, in case you need assistance with finding that "park" of your own, the brand subconsciously let's you know that purchasing Ivy Park products can be the perfect inspiration to enable you to do so. The great thing is that every entrepreneur can utilize these techniques to their advantage. Here are questions to ask yourself in order to start doing things the way Mrs. Carter does:
What ways can I identify to better interject my branding into my products and collateral marketing
How can I tell my brand's "story" better?
What are some ways you can use that story to connect more intimately with your ideal clients?
Understand the importance of leveraging artnerships
I was watching a recent episode of E! Network's WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) reality show Total Divas, and two of my favorite diva wrestlers, The Bella Twins were interested in launching a lingerie line called Birdiebee. Brie wanted to do things on their own, but Nikki recognized the value of partnering with someone experienced and seasoned in the fashion industry and sought out Daymond John of fashion brand FUBU and Shark Tank fame.
Looks like Nikki Bella might have gotten her Masters in Business from Bey-School.
Beyoncé clearly understands the power of partnerships as well. Could she have successfully launched an athleisure line all on her own? Of course. So, why didn't she? Because she recognized that she didn't have to. She realized instead that she could instead create a powerful alliance with a company that was not only already a power player in the athletic wear field, but that also already had a proven track record with collaborations. My thought is that Beyoncé's stance was "Why re-invent the wheel when I can get in a vehicle that's already rolling along quite well?"
The business lesson for entrepreneurs is that sometimes it's not necessary to create everything on your own or from scratch. In fact, creating strategic partnerships can be an absolutely invaluable strategy because you leverage the strengths of each partner to create something bigger than you could have created alone.
Understand that seriously successful entrepreneurs know they have to commodify their sh*t
You know that fabulous biz concept you've developed/gorgeous logo you designed/perfect business name/ideal slogan you thought of? Well guess what — if you don't take appropriate measures, it won't be long before someone else thinks of that biz concept/gorgeous logo/perfect business name too and decides to capitalize on it for their own benefit. One of the biggest (and potentially most costly) misconceptions budding entrepreneurs and small business owners make is underestimating the importance of protecting their ideas and the business they're building from those ideas from the very beginning. They fail to commodify.
What does it mean to commodify? Well, let's start with what a commodity is first. The dictionary defines a commodity as:
something that is bought and sold
something or someone that is useful or valued
So to commodify something means you take action and transform a thing into a commodity — you impart an intrinsic value upon it. In order to have longevity in the business world, entrepreneurs must begin to recognize their intellectual property as a commodity, and then do what it takes to protect it. Beyoncé is a master of commodifying her sh*t. She means it when she says in "Formation," “I dream it...I work hard ’til I own it.” When she dreams up a great idea, she is quick to protect it and impart her ownership on it.
Here's what I'm talking about: She filed for a USPTO trademark for the business name Ivy Park which is a critical first step. She didn't stop there though. She also secured social media accounts associated with that trademark under @WeAreIvyPark; she created her own website www.IvyPark.com and then she initiated use of the hashtag #IVYPARK.
By doing that she is imparting value on her business and intellectual property, as well as protecting it from those who would love to snatch the value of it for themselves. These are all crucial steps to take for entrepreneurs who are really serious about their business. If your business is your proverbial baby, then you must do everything in your power to protect it.
Be like Bey. Commodify what's yours if it's truly of value.
Understand that it's crucial to create multiple streams of revenue generation
You've heard the phrase "Don't put all your eggs in one basket!" a million and two times, yet it can be difficult for entrepreneurs to avoid doing exactly that. We can be like a dog with a bone when it comes to an idea that we're super passionate about, but longevity requires creating several different ways to generate income.
This is easier said than done. The desire to stay on-brand or focusing on what seems like a logical next project can make developing multiple streams complicated — if you let it.
Think about Ivy Park. You don't immediately think of an athletic clothing line being a logical, on-brand project for a music entertainer, but when you really begin to think about how athletic ability is closely tied to what she does during her high-energy performances, it starts to make sense. In order to do what Beyoncé does, you have no choice but to train like an athlete.
A glamorous, hair-blowing-in-the-wind, glisten-instead-of-sweat athlete, but one nonetheless.
So what does this mean for you? It means you must actively think about ways you can diversify your business. Brainstorm on it and don't limit yourself. Do a mental paradigm shift and think about other projects that come naturally to you, that you're passionate about or that you've always wanted to try. Think logically and even (what might feel like) illogically.
Once you've got some ideas on paper, flesh a few of them out a bit and create a skeleton plan for how to make each of them happen. This will give you a great, loose road map to follow so that you're ready when an opportunity presents itself.
Then, once you're ready to bring one of those revenue streams to life, do yourself a favor:
Put your game face on, get your Bey-School education and make those business goals and dreams happen.
Your own Ivy Park is waiting.
On Saturday, May 21st, we’re hosting our inaugural conference about how creativity and technology are changing our daily lives, from our hobbies to our work. Will you be joining us? Tickets here.
Davon D E Hatchett is a writer, champagne blogger, and product maker...who just also happens to be an attorney focused on Trademarks, Small Business Strategies & Branding catering to creative entrepreneurs and business visionaries. So whether you want to know what champagne to pair with your truffle popcorn (a la Olivia Pope) or want to develop a new stream of income for your biz, Davon is your girl. She is also the creator of the hashtag #BeyonceIsMyBusinessBae. Because, Bey knows business.
INSTAGRAM & TWITTER: @TheBubbleista
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Don't get me wrong, I love a good happy hour. Although I have a wonderful relationship with my coworkers, I'd just prefer to go on my personal time and leave all office shenanigans at the 5 o'clock hour. At the end of the day, my priorities have shifted tremendously and I find myself, most times, running out the door to pick up my children from daycare on time.
Want to know how I avoided the outings? Well, I wish I had something more profound to reveal, but I actually had a discussion with my boss about it. I noticed that it was seemingly becoming an expectation that we make plans to attend after-hours office gatherings as some sort of team-building/bonding experience and I felt the need to be upfront. I didn't want to be the person who never showed up to anything.
I let my boss know that although I felt bad that I wasn't able to attend the outings, my evenings are accounted for – for obvious reasons! As a wife and mom to young children, it's important for me to maximize what is left of the day with my family. I didn't want to feel pressured, and walking on eggshells at an office happy hour is just not my idea of a fun time, to be completely honest. It's perfectly okay to just not want to go. We spend an awful lot of time in the workplace, and by the end of the day, some just want out.
My priorities are bit different from others, so I want to know if you attend office happy hours. Why or why not? Let us know in the comments below!
On Saturday, May 21st, we’re hosting our inaugural conference about how creativity and technology are changing our daily lives, from our hobbies to our work. Will you be joining us? Tickets here.
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